Tuesday, May 8, 2012

People shouldn't lie in favor of chemicals

I like brominated flame retardants just as much as the next guy, but this is too far. In an article in the Chicago Tribune, reporters  Patricia Callahan and Sam Roe uncover a physician who told horror stories about burned children who could have been saved by fire retardants. Problem: they weren't true:
Before California lawmakers last year, the noted burn surgeon drew gasps from the crowd as he described a 7-week-old baby girl who was burned in a fire started by a candle while she lay on a pillow that lacked flame retardant chemicals. 
Heimbach's passionate testimony about the baby's death made the long-term health concerns about flame retardants voiced by doctors, environmentalists and even firefighters sound abstract and petty. But there was a problem with his testimony: It wasn't true. Records show there was no dangerous pillow or candle fire. The baby he described didn't exist. Neither did the 9-week-old patient who Heimbach told California legislators died in a candle fire in 2009. Nor did the 6-week-old patient who he told Alaska lawmakers was fatally burned in her crib in 2010. 
Heimbach is not just a prominent burn doctor. He is a star witness for the manufacturers of flame retardants.
Assuming this story is true, the manufacturers of flame retardants should be ashamed of stooping to these techniques to advocate for their products. I don't like people lying about chemicals or distorting their negative affects* -- but telling untruths in favor of chemicals is wrong.

*In my opinion, the article's spin on chemicals is just as wrong-headed. But that's another post. 


  1. Change the industry from flame-retardants to pharmaceuticals, and suddenly it sounds totally normal.

  2. As a Chicagoan, I must admit we call that particular fish wrapper the Fibune most of the time. Every once in a while they do get it right. Just sayin'.

    1. PS Your colleague See Arr Oh often posts about misguided, shall we say,"opinionators", making silly posts about "evil chemicals". I agree with See Arr Oh, as well as your footnote. After all, some clever people - chemists, perhaps? - got a whole lot of bureaucrats to outlaw that awful corrosive dihydrogen monoxide. What is this world coming to? :)


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20